Star Wars Starfighter
A quarter of a century after the original film mesmerised an unsuspecting audience, the Star Wars behemoth rolls on inexorably. The mythology may have been irreversibly diluted by the glorified Muppet Show I that was The Phantom Menace, but that hasn’t A stopped games publishers A further cheapening it with a succession of substandard efforts. Then to top it all, George Lucas casually announces that the next film is to be called Attack Of The Clones, a name even Jedi Ewan McGregor has understatedly dismissed as "not good".
So where does Star Wars: Starfighter sit among the detritus of official merchandise? A year after it was released on PlayStation 2, it’s little more than a footnote, somewhere between a branded pencil case and a box set of the original trilogy. If you’ve played Rogue Squadron or Battle ForNaboo, you’ll know the form, and in many ways this completes that particular trilogy, providing something of an attack of the clones itself.
The concept is identical to that of those two games, and as such involves a succession of linear missions played out in a variety of craft, interspersed with cut scenes to "progress the narrative". Taking place in the period before Episode One, it’s a confusing tale, but one involving the Star Wars staple of avenging death and shooting stuff.
Beginning as a fresh-faced cadet, your trainer tragically buys the farm, leaving you a bitter man intent on vengeance. Rhys Dallows is the name, and the voice acting is enough to make Mark Hamill look like a true professional. This standard continues, throughout the game. Conventional wisdom suggests the word 'turret’ boasts two syllables, but here it’s reduced to a solitary slur, redolent of Brando’s "the horror" in Apocalypse Now. Also, your R2 unit appears to be called Reg, although on closer inspection it’s probably Wrench. Which is a shame. The second character is hard-faced mercenary, Vana Sage, surely a contender for a porno name. Interested more in money than idealism, she’ll fight for any side if the price is right. The unlikely triumvirate is completed by alien pirate, Nym, one of those blue-faced things with tendrils hanging either side of the nose. Together, they must save the galaxy (the one that’s far, far away...).
Played out in a variety of locales, the action offers a reasonable mix of space and land-based blasting, with the lush scenery of Naboo represented in full Bland-O-Vision. The tasks are standard fodder, such as escorting the Queen’s ship, protecting the rebel base, and destroying a droid factory, eventually culminating in a Death Star-style showdown. The different scenarios give you the chance to play as the game’s three characters, utilising the minor differences of each one’s particular ship. It’s literally a bloodless affair, as the vast majority of enemies are droids, bypassing the problem of sullying the Star Wars universe with the entrails of the dead. With no option to save midmission, it’s simply a case of repeating each one until you get it right, although with the majority checking in at under ten minutes, that’s no hardship. When you consider there are only 14 missions, you realise it isn’t a great deal of bang for your buck, and on the easiest level the game can be completed in a weekend, even with bonus missions.
While it lasts though, it’s a bit of a blast, as attested by the fact I write these words with no feeling in my right thumb, having tackled the game using an old-skool joystick. The action can get fairly intense, with some of the space battles bordering on epic. Enemies come thick and fast, and while your craft are quite sluggish, they’re just about manoeuvrable enough to take evasive action. Nominal instructions can be given to wingmen, but in the context of the mainly scripted action, it doesn’t make a great deal of difference. It's simply about following the instructions, which are at least presented in the form of in-game dialogue.
In the short term, Starfighter is highly addictive, as were its predecessors. However, once completed there isn’t'a great deal of value in re-treading missions. To paraphrase Craig David, you could buy the game on Saturday, foil the Trade Federation on Sunday, take it down the Computer Exchange on Monday...
Download Star Wars Starfighter
On the heels of N64's Battle for Naboo, Starfighter makes you really appreciate the power of the PS2. Extensive audio communication between your pilot and allies guides you colorfully through each mission, and the game won't stutter with dozens of ships on-screen. While the story's only a notch above the usual crap, the gameplay is the best you'll find in a Star Wars console title, with intuitive targeting and flight controls, plus wingman commands that let you give orders to your allies. Missions are split fairly evenly between land and space settings, and you even get to fly through an enemy space station at one point (cool). What disappointed me was the consistently choppy framerate and mediocre graphics-- I kept getting the feeling that the game was rushed. Some of the ground terrains look out-and-out ugly. I'd blame it on the youth of the hardware, but there are already games on the shelf that look a heck of a lot better. If you're into the PC Star Wars sims, you're not going to be overly impressed--Starfighter doesn't do anything that the PC games haven't, and joystick users will lament the controls. Nonetheless, Starfighter has a lot of cool mission objectives that make the game very fun to play, even for those who aren't big fans of the genre. PS2 owners should consider this one as a refreshing break from the recent barrage of lame titles, whether you've followed the series on consoles or not.
Starfighter isn't the PS2 killer app I was hoping for. The visuals, although slick, get choppy--especially during planetside levels--and mission design here is nothing special. Later sorties suffer from that chronic flaw of the space-combat genre: They start out easy, last too long, become impossibly hard near the end, and thus force you to repeat them over and over. It's tedious. Still, this game does plenty right. It tosses an enormous amount of enemies at you; you really feel like you're part of a battle that's true to the epic scale of the films. And just wait until you weave through the innards of the massive droid-control ship! Fun but flawed.
If there's one thing that this game excels at, it's making you feel like you're flying in the middle of an epic battle. The amount of laser-fodder on screen at once is amazing, but comes at a price: The gameplay often slows down during the planetary missions and there's lots of glitchy graphics that you just don't expect in a PS2 game (often I "parked" inside a capi-tol ship and blew it up from within when the polygons glitched and let me in). All of those enemies also cause lots of deaths, which sucks because you have to constantly restart long, difficult missions from scratch. But if you have patience, you'll definitely enjoy this visceral adrenaline rush.
The parade of Star Wars games continues with this 3D flight sim that seems like a combination of Rogue Squadron and X-Wing. LucasArts Starfighter takes place during the Trade Federation takeover of Naboo where you pilot three different types of ships in 14 missions taking place both on the planet and in space. The graphics, particularly the landscapes, are absolutely gorgeous. You can see for yourself this winter.
One of the biggest stories to surface out of last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo was George Lucas and his undying love for the power under the hood of the PlayStation 2. Granted, I am sure that Sony did everything in their power to see to it that this news was broadcast as loudly and frequently as possible. Now we gamers are finally treated to the first fruits of Mr. Lucas' supposed love with Sony's super-console. From the moment I popped this disc in, I could not wait to find out if the programmers at LucasArts shared the same affection for the PS2 as the big cheese. Overall, I would have to say they are on the right track but still need a few more hours targeting Wamprats back in Beggars Canyon.
It was never really clear if the story takes place right before or right after The Phantom Menace but it was around that general time period. You will alternate roles between of one of three pilots with the ultimate goal of trying to help save Naboo from the Trade Federation. As you switch between pilots, you take the reigns of three different ship types, each with slightly different weapons. You will test your skills as a pilot across 14 surface and space missions that come to an end all too quickly.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Starfighter is best classified as a mission-based flight combat sim. The game is broken out into 14 different missions each with a varying number of objectives. Prior to launching into a mission, you are presented with a text briefing of your objectives along with three bonus objectives (more on bonus missions in a minute). The missions range from protecting ground positions to destroying shield generators to simple dogfights. As you work your way through the different missions and objectives, cut-scenes are used to try driving the story along.
I had previously mentioned that each mission contains three bonus objectives along with the mandatory objective. These bonus objectives unlock hidden missions at the end of the game. The bonus objective would vary but one of the three was almost always completing the mission under a certain amount of time. The other two bonus objectives were dependant on the mission but usually consisted of destroying all enemy targets or protecting a ship from taking any enemy fire -- things along those lines. The whole point of these bonus objectives was to help the longevity of the game; to get you to come back and play the missions over and over trying to complete all three of the bonus objectives to receive your gold medal. This leads me to one of my complaints with the game...
This game is short. Too short. Disappointingly short. Using the bonus objectives to try to get you to go back and play through each mission was a step in the right direction but after playing through each mission two or three times, I quickly grew tired and wanted to move on, regardless of whether or not I had completed the bonus objectives. And while we are on the topic, I found some of the 14 missions to be rather bland and repetitive. There were more than a few occasions where I found myself mentally going on autopilot just waiting for the mission to end so I could go on to something new. As it stands, if you try to play through the 14 missions without worrying about the bonus objectives, an average gamer should complete the game in 15-20 hours. The game does have a difficulty setting that allows you to chose from easy-medium-hard and there is a definite difference. I suggest you play at least medium to help draw the game out further and to add a bit more challenge.
As long as we are airing the dirty laundry out of the gate, I might as well touch on the other thing that bothered me about the game (and then we will go on to what was good about it). As you are flying the missions, you have no radar. Every flying game has a radar and there is good reason for it. There were times where I found myself a bit confused at who the enemy was and who my fellow pilots were. On further inspection it was fairly obvious but in the heat of battle, I have my guns blazing and don't have time for a visual inspection. A radar with different colored dots representing allies and foes would have saved a bit of frustration on my part and I can't help but think that others will curse this omission as well.
Based on what you have just read, you must be scratching your head wondering how the game could score a 52, let alone an 82. Well, even though the game was short and sometimes repetitive, other times I would sit back and marvel at the Star Wars universe that LucasArts created and actually felt like I was part of it. Some Star Wars games in the past have really missed the mark when trying to capture this feeling and end up coming across generic. Not the case here.
Aside from the lack of a radar, this game is a snap to play. After 15 minutes or so, you should have a good handle on the controls and should be flying like a starfleet veteran. They did a great job of using the PlayStation controller and all of the buttons without making it overly complicated. Both analog sticks are used which normally leads to complicated controls but even novice pilots should feel comfortable in relatively short order. It can get a bit overwhelming when trying to hold on the brakes (L2), fire your lasers (L1), and aim but there were only a few instances that this was required. One final note on the controls was the zoom feature. By holding in the R1 button, the targeting will zoom to a sniper mode. This allows you to more accurately target ships off in the distance and is key to obtaining good mission times because you do not have to sit back waiting for the enemy ships to get closer.
The one thing that saved all of the missions, and therefore the game, from being a totally bland and repetitive exercise was the fact that the missions varied from surface to space. It was very refreshing to complete a battle deep in space only to have the next mission be centered planet side. This is something that is not often seen in this type of game. Normally they would take place all in space or all on a planet so it was nice to see the developers buck the trend a bit and mix it up.
Graphics & Audio
This is one of the few PlayStation 2 games that is worthy of the system. Up until now, I feel most PS2 games could have been pulled off on the Dreamcast with little or no graphical hit. There is no way the Dreamcast could pull off graphics this pretty. The ships are very detailed and modeled perfectly. The cut-scenes, while obviously pre-rendered, are breathtaking. All of that said, it is the explosions that steal the show. I have never seen explosions recreated with such vivid colors and with such attention to detail. I actually found myself trying to talk other people into playing the game just so I could sit back and enjoy from a distance. There were a few minor downsides to the graphics -- most notably the surface textures. After awhile, all of the ground missions started to look alike. Some variety would have been nice.
As for audio, what can I say? This is LucasArts and this is Star Wars. Everything from the laser fire to the chatter over the com unit just drips Star Wars. I really feel that the audio is one of the strongest points of the game because it helps suck you in to the Star Wars world.
Well, Mr. Lucas appears to have his team on the right track and his excitement over the PS2 looks to have a bit of substance behind it now. While this game could have been much more than it ended up, I can't help but wonder what is to come in the next year or two. Starfighter is very much worth a weekend rental and if you are a die-hard Star Wars fan, you can't go wrong picking it up. It is one of the best games ever created based on the Star Wars universe but I just wonder if another month or two in development would not have done enough to push the game to elite status.
Set slightly before the Phantom Menace, Starfighter follows the story of three highly different characters who find themselves fighting for similar goals. The story starts with Rhys Dallows, who as a citizen of Naboo accepts a request to join Bravo team, protecting his planet from the Trade Federation. With the Trade Federation threatening Naboo's freedom, their lack of a military force leaves them quite vulnerable and a small force is quickly established. Flying the agile N-1 Starfighter, Rhys shows a quick ability to take advantage of the crafts precision control and raw speed. Just as his training was completing however, an attack kills his trainer and sets him adrift in space. As that's happening, Vana Sage a mercenary hired by the Trade Federation to track down and capture the pirate Nym, discovers her employer, the Trade Federation, isn't all that innocent as she finds their droid factory preparing for a planetary invasion. Using her starfighter the Guardian Mantis, she finds her conscience getting the best of her and decides to warn the Naboo. Unfortunately for her and the Naboo, Nym was well aware of his bounty and tracked Vana first. Flying his heavily upgraded ship the Havoc, Nym captures Vana, locking her up. This is just the beginning however, as these three individuals cross paths and realize their common enemy, a unique alliance is forged and a powerful force is created.
Starfighter is almost a direct port from the original Playstation 2 version without any noticeable attempts to improve it. Even the X-Box version received a slight facelift offering new missions and multi-playing capabilities but this port actually takes a step backward, with some areas worse than the original. Although still solid in a number of key areas with the same great story line, many may be disappointed and frustrated with this port especially if they're looking for improvement over the original.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Starfighter is focused around fourteen story-based missions with bonus missions available when certain criteria are met. Each of the story-based missions allows three different difficulties: easy, medium, and hard, to increase the challenge for the more advanced players. In addition, medals are awarded: bronze, silver, or gold, when extra objectives are achieved. For instance, beyond just meeting the minimum requirements for a mission, to get a medal you may have to finish in a certain time period, destroy all enemies, or keep from losing a high percentage of friendly ships. Once medals are awarded, bonus missions can be unlocked when all the required medals are won. Getting all bronze medals may unlock one bonus mission while getting all silver medals may allow any mission to be flown using a specific starfighter. In the bonus missions selection at the beginning of the game, the requirements for unlocking each bonus mission is shown, so if specific missions look interesting, those requirements can be attempted first.
The missions are tied together with a solid storyline that does a great job expanding the Star Wars universe. In addition to skirting on the edges of the Star Wars Episode 1: Phantom Menace storyline, it also creates new characters and builds an original plot through the lives of Rhys, Vana, and Nym. The main problem with the storyline however is its length. Although the cut scenes inbetween missions help build the story, most would probably trade them in for more missions given the option. The bonus missions, which are created to elongate the game, help somewhat but the small amount of them doesn't help enough. Most gamers will also be able to rip through the fourteen missions fairly quickly and even though attempting to get all the medals offers more objectives, they too are quickly achieved.
Although improvements to the game's length would have been welcome, changes to the controls are definitely not. Unfortunately, that appears to be exactly what has happened and calling it an improvement would be a significant misstatement. For some reason, there appears to be a delay from the time a command to steer is given to when the craft actually reacts. Basically, when you're flying through a narrow gorge for instance, navigating can become a highly difficult task. As you're weaving through it, the only way to successfully navigate is to know what turns are coming and react about a second before you normally would. Why it works this way is beyond me as there was a similar response using either the keyboard or a joystick. I actually spent over an hour troubleshooting the joystick before realizing the keyboard operates the in the same manner. When flying in open areas, it's not a huge problem but flying in tight places can be frustrating. The rest of the control structure doesn't have the same problem, as firing weapons or switching targets appears to happen when requested.
Since bugs have apparently crept into the control system, the interface was also suspect. In seems to have faired better however, and made it through the porting process relatively intact. When looking at the interface, all three starfighters flown have a similar structure but slightly different appearance to them. It consists of a targeting sight in the middle of the screen that's fixed in place. At the bottom of the screen on the left side is a picture of the target selected with its shields, health, distance, and name around the outside of the image. On the bottom right is an objective pointer represented by an arrow surrounded by your health, shields, and secondary weapon ammo indicator. There is also a wingman command display located in the upper left corner where up to four commands can be given.
For those who like them, Starfighter does have two bonus missions for multiplayer games that can be unlocked. One is a modified capture the flag where you try to fly through your enemies guarded ring and fly back through yours three times to win. If you get shot down before getting back however, you lose the flag and have to fly through again. Both flags also can't be obtained at the same time so if your opponent gets yours, you either have to shoot him down or let him get the flag back to his base. The other multiplayer bonus mission is a basic race through a canyon where the only goal is to reach the finish line first. Although the first mission is slightly more interesting than racing through a canyon, both are short lived and worn out quickly.
As with the original, the graphics are definitely a selling point. It's still one of the better space simulators on the market visually with high levels of detail and beautifully rendered environments. The weapons even leave blast marks and realistic smoke trails can be seen as enemies are shot down. Often if shot enough, they'll explode with pieces of the craft flying out in accurate arching patterning due to it's velocity and direction.
The audio even surpasses the graphics with sound quality familiar to most Star Wars games. All the special effects and other sounds that bring the Star Wars universe to life are included in this game and are executed perfectly. Other issues like the voices for the characters also hit the mark, adding depth and personality sometimes difficult to achieve.
OS: Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP, CPU: Pentium II or Athlon class 350 MHz or faster CPU required, Memory: 64 MB RAM required. 128 MB required for Windows 2000 and XP, Graphics: 16 MB DirectX 8 compatible PCI or AGP 3D Hardware Accelerator required, Sound Card: 16-bit sound card required, Input Deevice: Keyboard or mouse required. Joystick or gamepad recommended, Hard Drive Space: 580 MB of free hard drive space required. Additional 100 MB of free space required after game
With Star Wars: Starfighter for the PC being an almost direct port from the Playstation 2, you'd expect most of the game to not be any worse then the original. For the most part, this is the case except for one gameplay issue concerning the control system. That apparent bug can cause unnecessary frustration and make some missions extremely difficult to complete. If that can be overlooked however, Lucasarts does a good job on the rest of the port, even recognizing it for the port it is offering it for $40 instead of the standard $50 most games go for.
Star Wars Starfighter was an eagerly anticipated title when it premiered on the PS2. If any of the buzz surrounding this title is correct, it might not be so eagerly anticipated, but this version of Starfighter certainly promises to be a solid, quality title for the Xbox. In the face of the disparity of solid titles for the Xbox, this is a welcome sight. Seeking to present Xbox players with a well-designed Star Wars title, Starfighter - Special Edition has brand new features that should entertain people that already own the original Starfighter.
Set during the events of the popular film, Star Wars - Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, Starfighter is a story told from three different angles. You'll start out as the brave Naboo fighter pilot Rhys Dallows, a new recruit in the Royal Naboo Air Force. Later, you'll get a chance to fly as the brave mercenary pilot Vana Sage, and finally, as the pirate captain Nym. These three heroes take on a challenge that you didn't see in the film, as they battle against the Trade Federation in a story that meshes perfectly with the heroic adventure depicted in The Phantom Menace. Each of the heroes has fully developed storylines that not only play an important part in the bigger picture of the Phantom Menace, but also dovetail perfectly to tell a single overall story.
At its heart, Starfighter is a fighter sim, putting you in the cockpit of some of the most advanced fighter craft ever seen in the Star Wars universe. Three fighters, plus more that you'll unlock as you complete the various missions, let you wield a variety of blasters, ion cannons, missiles, and proton torpedoes. Providing a simple gameplay style, Starfighter is a good arcade title, easy to play and quick to learn.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
This title is best termed a flight sim. A fairly simple, easy to play flight sim, that lets you play from either first person or third person perspective. Switching between your cockpit and rear-of-craft view is as easy as hitting the back button, and whichever mode you use depends on your personal preference. Since the follow camera in the game is pretty forgiving, you'll want to practice until you're used to each of the modes, as they both provide advantages. You won't need to worry much about the actual skill required to pilot your fighter as it is absurdly simple. The hardest part will be learning how to pilot and fire your weapons at the same time, since you'll only need to worry about getting hit by gunfire if you stop moving.
The analog sticks control your pitch and roll, with the trigger pads controlling your accelerating and braking. Each fighter has a unique set of weapons, with a primary and secondary weapon, and an alternate secondary weapon that you can charge up for a special effect. You can zoom in your display as you're flying to give you the drop on opponents, letting you snipe them. Your weapons are fairly standard, with the Naboo fighter packing a set of blaster cannons, and proton torpedoes. The Guardian Mantis, Vana Sage's fighter, comes equipped with tag missiles, which hit an opponent, causing all of your primary weapon shots to seek straight to the target, even if you're rotated 180 degrees away from it. Captain Nym pilots the Havoc, a slow but powerful gunboat, with a devastating ground attack bomb.
Your storyline missions follow a standard linear path, advancing to the next mission only after you've completed the previous one. Each mission can be played on Easy, Medium, or Hard modes, and a series of in-game objectives let you collect medals for your gameplay. Depending on how many medals you collect, you'll unlock various secrets that give you even more missions to choose from. At certain points during your progression, you'll be treated to a rendered CGI sequence, which, along with in-game scripted events, advances the story, telling you more about the Starfighter plotline. Aside from the story, you can also fly the bonus missions. Most of them are unlocked as you play, but these missions are little side stories that usually challenge your skills and are necessary to unlock some of the more interesting secrets. For those of you that aren't quite as skilled that this sort of game, you'll be happy to know that you can unlock all of those items with cheat codes.
New in the Special Edition are additional multiplayer features with new maps and a host of bonus missions that can be attempted with two players instead of one. The Dogfight is something you'll all know and love, as it is the Starfighter equivalent of the deathmatch. Capture the Flag is likewise the same old game, but Tag lets you get tagged "it," in a game where you'll earn more points depending on how long you can stay away from the other player. Hunter places one of the players as a Scarab fighter (weak enemies from the story game, and also an unlockable fighter you can get as a secret ship), and if you can avoid being destroyed five times in a row, you've won. Detonator Drop is similar to Capture the Flag, but instead of taking the enemy flag back to your base, you'll need to collect the Thermal Detonator at the center of the map.
With the power of the Xbox, it's actually somewhat surprising that the graphics on Starfighter don't look better. There's an obvious improvement in the look of both space and ground battles, but I wasn't particularly impressed with the sharpness and extra detail that can be provided on an Xbox. The design team that developed Starfighter did a pretty good job the first time around, and in that respect, the game didn't need all that much work. A few more enemies can be on the screen at one time, but nothing that you'd notice without lots of gameplay.
Featuring many clips from the Phantom Menace soundtrack, Starfighter, like many of the official Star Wars titles, has the great music that helps drive the Star Wars epic. These audio tracks really help move the suspension of disbelief in the game, as you're that much more able to get into the game when it actually sounds like you're in the move. Similarly, the sound effects are also completely authentic, and the voice acting is not only sharp but very professional, without any of the traditionally bad voice acting that usually accompanies a video game.
Relation to Previous Versions
If you happen own an Xbox and even a PS2 as well, Starfighter - Special Edition is a good improvement on the original title. If you've already purchased a copy for the PS2, I wouldn't suggest getting this Xbox version, but it is well worth it if you haven't yet owned a copy of Starfighter. The extra features add a bit more replay value over the original; especially given that split screen multiplayer mode won't slow down your system at all.
As an update of the original title, Starfighter - Special Edition has added features to provide new gameplay, and additional replay value. There are new bonus missions, a multiplayer mode for two players, and improved graphics for the Xbox premiere. I suppose that my favorite feature is the lack of performance issues thanks to the Xbox's more than ample hardware. Ultimately just a port of the original game, Starfighter retains its origins well, and adds enough extras to be an enjoyable ride. Still, with the difference between the PS2 and the Xbox versions, they're still close enough to make this new version only a slight improvement over the original. Buy the version you like, or the version you've already got the console for.